December Mountains TN, USA (Trailspacers unite)

6:05 p.m. on December 12, 2011 (EST)
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I said I was going to branch out into some winter backpacking this year and so it’s begun. Although technically still Fall, winter conditions prevailed on this trip. I found out that Trailspace moderator and backpacking stalwart Gonzan was aiming for Stratton Bald in Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest on a Saturday, and via PM on Trailspace arranged to meet him and Tipi Walter atop the mountain. There should be three overlapping reports if TW and G post also. Gonzan should have the best pictures with his excellent Nikon camera, and artistic eye. (no pressure…)

  

I was fortunate enough to get an early start on Friday after work and after a two+ hour drive began hiking from a roadside pull-off of the Cherohala Skyway in Eastern TN.

 

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 It was a cool, sunny, and snowy start at Beech Gap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 The trail starts as on old logging road.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 Wow, the weather was just beautiful and it made for fabulous hiking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 This shot was passing by Stratton Bald (day 2 camp for me).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 And this was passing by a place called Naked Ground. After I passed a certain point there were no human tracks in front of me and I got to make the first ones in the crisp white snow. Excellent!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 Turkey Tracks below Haoe Peak...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 I made it out to the Hangover overlook a couple hours before dark, and had the whole area to myself all evening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 There was enough wind to compel me to put on some Goretex but still quite comfy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 My first use of a new piece of winter gear: a Western Mountaineering Lynx bag (rated to -10 F). It filled up my little tent! This piece of gear worked great. Underneath it was also a new Neo-Air All Season which also performed very well. In fact I got a bit too hot both nights and had to open the bag up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 I had pitched in a clear cut on the ridge top. Some risk of exposure but an awesome view!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 I first awoke in the middle of night with frost on my nose and bag collar; I had dosed off before closing the tent fly. At a more normal time I awoke to a nice wide sun rise in front...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 And the moon still visible behind me…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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After another morning hike out to the Hangover and back I began working my way back up the ridge. I wore my new micro-spikes on the icy north side of the mountain and I was impressed; they performed as advertised.

  

I had stopped to get water and take a break when my first ever internet spotting happened: a couple backpackers walked up and a fellow I didn't know said "hey,are you Patman?". He had recognized me from Trailspace. They were experienced 'packers John and Shawn from Nashville and knew Tipi from trips past.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 I left the ridge top to explore a trail down to a place called Wolf Laurel and saw a giant backpack floating up the mountain side. Wait, no, it was that Tipi Walter wild man of internet notoriety.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 Tipi and I hiked back up to Stratton ridge on a magically beautiful afternoon. The electric blue skies and sunshine made the snowy top trail a great place to be. We were eventually joined by John (Frogman) and Shawn from Nashville who decided to forego the long loop they had planned and return to the Bob.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This was my "mid-Bob" camp site (it was sunny when I chose it). While I was finishing camp I heard someone walk up and say "Hey Patrick"; Gonzan had arrived!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 And here we have the Trailspace crew of me, Tipi and Gonzan posing for three cameras! Funny stuff...Gonzans camera timer was set on about 30 minutes, so we solved a few world problems while waiting for it to flash. :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 The Trailspace three went down to Frogman and Shawn’s camp to make dinner together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 We had a fun evening of laughter and fellowship as we all finished dinner and enjoyed a beautiful sunset. The moon was incredibly bright that night and lit up the bald during all my conscious hours. I think Gonzan wandered the area with his camera for a couple hours on the frigid mountain top.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 The next morning I pretty much stayed in the tent until the sun rose above the ridge in the distance; it was still very, very cold.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 My fist human visitor of the morning was Gonzan; he had camped in trees above the main area and was traversing the bald on the way down to make breakfast at the main camp site. I must note here that Gonzan earned my sincere respect and simultaneous sympathy for this: he forgot his sleeping pad and spent a sub 20 degree Fahrenheit night with not much between him and the cold, cold ground. But his attitude was quite superior as he endured without complaint. Very impressive and I truly admire the positive disposition. :) But dang…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 "Breakfast with mutants above 5000 feet”. We all have those moments in life when we look around us and think "Just how did I arrive here at this moment with these people?", right? lol

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 I was trying to get everyone to do a power pose but instead, Tipi and I look like something bad is happening to us (internal cramps etc...).

 We said our goodbyes as Gonzan headed out on a long day of hiking; Tipi and I went the other direction towards Beech Gap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 We carefully stepped our way down the steep and often icy ridge and eventually parted ways as Tipi continued up Flats mountain trail on his 13 day adventure.

 

 

 

 

This was a special trip for me in that it was a wonderful combination of beautiful surroundings, outstanding weather, and convivial company. What an awesome feeling it was to blaze a trail through fresh snow on a crisply pulchritudinous mountain ridge. I can't imagine a better way to branch into winter trips. I still have much to learn about winter trekking but I’m an eager student for this curriculum! I’m looking forward to the other reports…

 

Happy Trails!

7:09 p.m. on December 12, 2011 (EST)
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Patman Great trip report. I know the 2 guy's threw you when they asked of you were who you are. Did you find that flattering and that people truly enjoy reading your 's and the rest of the Tennesee bunch's explotes.?  Great report as always and better wioth a meet with everyone. Bad deal for Gonzan. WOW he's a trooper..

7:33 p.m. on December 12, 2011 (EST)
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Hey thanks Denis…

Yeah, it was initially unsettling when someone knows you but you don’t know them and feel at some disadvantage or something. But then it was cool and they were great guys anyway. I guess that’s bound to happen with a public forum huh?

It was really one of the more recreational trips I’ve had in a while. Such good stuff.

Oh and yeah Caleb’s something else, I don’t know that I could have kept a good attitude about sleeping on the frozen ground.

I’m always impressed by a good attitude as that’s what I aim for but often fall short myself.

10:04 p.m. on December 12, 2011 (EST)
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Patman said:

..pulchritudinous...

Yea, he can write it but can he pronounce it without a safety net?  Gawd! I twisted my tongue muscle attempting to speachificate that word.  The only reason I know it isn't profane is it has too many letters; nevertheless I wouldn’t be surprised if you get PMed by Rick or Caleb to watch your language! 

Ed

 

12:15 a.m. on December 13, 2011 (EST)
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Great stuff, Patman! I've got to get a copy of that photo you took of me on Sunday morning: I look like I just rolled in from a fourteener, LOL!

see now, I was only up so early because I was was feeling like being on the wee frosty end of an iceberg ;) I definitely won't be making the sophomoric mistake of leaving my sleeping pad again.  Layering all my extra clothing in between folds of my emergency blanket worked remarkably well. I was relatively comfortable, though it certainly wasn't the warmest night's sleep I've ever had! 

I am quite envious of your hike out to the hangover on virgin snow. There is something unspeakably beautiful about venturing though fresh snow in the wilderness. 

BTW, our blackies most definitely venture up that high: On the way out to the hangover and back, I came upon proof of that. Not once, but three times. Pictures, and it did happen :)

12:23 a.m. on December 13, 2011 (EST)
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whomeworry said:

Patman said:

..pulchritudinous...

Yea, he can write it but can he pronounce it without a safety net?  Gawd! I twisted my tongue muscle attempting to speachificate that word.  The only reason I know it isn't profane is it has too many letters; nevertheless I wouldn’t be surprised if you get PMed by Rick or Caleb to watch your language! 

Ed

 

 Hahaha! 

8:02 a.m. on December 13, 2011 (EST)
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Ed,

I wondered if anyone would notice. I can’t slip that word into casual conversation very easily either so I thought I would try it out in writing. I think I might have to abandon its usage.  There may be a reason that one is slipping out of our lexicon.

Caleb,

I’m looking forward to your pics! If we do get three trip reports it will be interesting to see the trip from different perspectives.  

2:13 p.m. on December 13, 2011 (EST)
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Hey Patman, this is Sean from this weekend.  I just wanted to let you know it was cool meeting you all this weekend, hopefully I'll run into you again on the trail!

2:35 p.m. on December 13, 2011 (EST)
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Hey Sean, same here!

Sorry I misspelled your name in my report: I didn't think to ask...

3:38 p.m. on December 13, 2011 (EST)
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FUN trip report! Going from 2D to 3D is great and fun to see here in the reports!

3:54 p.m. on December 13, 2011 (EST)
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Pretty cool trip report. I found the part about the "giant floating backpack" funny.

Caleb looks like a high country ninja(4th pic from bottom.) 

How was it in the tent in the cold? You get into any winds?

4:25 p.m. on December 13, 2011 (EST)
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Thanks Karen!

Rick...I actually didn't get too much wind but I know from past experience that strong winds will cut right through that FlyCreek tent. I know I need to get either a real 4 season tent or at least something a bit more robust. That expensive sleeping bag and new All Season pad just tapped me out at the moment so I'll just have to risk it in the meantime. If we had gotten dumped on I don't think it would have fared well with any snow load at all. And to be fair it is a 3 season product. 

Yeah, I thought I was about to get ninja-chopped until I recognized the voice. lol

4:32 p.m. on December 13, 2011 (EST)
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Rick-Pittsburgh said:

Caleb looks like a high country ninja(4th pic from bottom.) 

Patman said:

Yeah, I thought I was about to get ninja-chopped until I recognized the voice. lol

 Hahaha! I little while later, after setting out my stove and cooking gear, I walked back up to Patman's tent where Tipi was as well. As I walked up, I am pretty sure Tipi didn't recognized me at all and was ready to make a dash for the nearest cover. I was confused for minute until I realized I was wearing pants and a jacket he hadn't seen before, and must have looked like a hitman in my "mask" :p

6:26 p.m. on December 13, 2011 (EST)
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gonzan said:

Hahaha! I little while later, after setting out my stove and cooking gear, I walked back up to Patman's tent where Tipi was as well. As I walked up, I am pretty sure Tipi didn't recognized me at all and was ready to make a dash for the nearest cover. I was confused for minute until I realized I was wearing pants and a jacket he hadn't seen before, and must have looked like a hitman in my "mask" :p

 All ya needed was your "whompin stick." 

I gotta admit if I was just climbing out of my tent and the 1st thing I saw in the morning after wiping the crud out of my eyes was you like that I probably would have crawled back in my tent... or chossed my pants :p 

6:59 p.m. on December 13, 2011 (EST)
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Patman,

Thanks for the trip report, I'm glad to see you guys got to hang out and spend some time in the mountains.

I'm way overdue myself, spring is turning into winter and that's okay, but I had hoped to get up that way before now.

Where are you headed to next?

10:38 p.m. on December 13, 2011 (EST)
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Good trip report.  It's interesting to see TS members coming together for group trips (I also saw the thread about the winter trip in the northeast).

And I see you used a BA tent ... their signature color scheme gives it away :).

11:41 p.m. on December 13, 2011 (EST)
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gonzan said:

 Hahaha! I little while later, after setting out my stove and cooking gear, I walked back up to Patman's tent where Tipi was as well. As I walked up, I am pretty sure Tipi didn't recognized me at all and was ready to make a dash for the nearest cover. I was confused for minute until I realized I was wearing pants and a jacket he hadn't seen before, and must have looked like a hitman in my "mask" :p

 You should have had a pair of mirrored goggles on and wandered up to Tipi like a zombie moaning. :)

7:46 a.m. on December 14, 2011 (EST)
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bheiser1,

Thanks and yes I'm getting my money’s worth out of that Big Agnes Fly Creek. One of the other guys on the trip also had a Copper Spur that was in some of the pics. I calculated that my last night on that trip was my 50th in that little tent. Some folks reach that many bag nights in couple of months but it took me over 18!

 

@Trouthunter,

I'm not sure where the next trip is yet. I'm a notorious last minute planner but chances are it will either be Frozen Head State Park, or The Smokies. I'd be glad to shoot you a PM when I get set if you'd like.

7:58 a.m. on December 14, 2011 (EST)
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Rick-Pittsburgh said:

 

 You should have had a pair of mirrored goggles on and wandered up to Tipi like a zombie moaning. :)

 Rick, that would really have freaked out Tipi. No joke: at that same place we were camped "Bob Stratton Bald" we call "the Bob", Tipi once had a Blackhawk helicopter do a touch and go landing while he was camped there. They were doing training exercises in the area. Man talk about shattering your serenity...

12:02 p.m. on December 19, 2011 (EST)
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I pulled in yesterday and had a great time hanging out with you guys on the high ground.  I'm glad Sean has checked in too.  And thanks Patman for the shuttle to Flats Mt and saving me a long circuitous route.  Our trips are hardly planned but come together at the spur of the moment as everyone knows where the Bob is and can plan accordingly.

12:56 p.m. on December 19, 2011 (EST)
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Hey welcome back Tipi! Anytime on the ride…heck, it was on my way and you showed me several trailheads I was unaware of ….

It was fun to accomplish a “mid-wilderness” hook up.  : )

(I’ve had much more thorough plans than that fall through in the past.)

While I have developed the discipline to exit well ‘cause of all my short trips, I have to say it was really hard to leave the mountains on such a beautiful day as when I dropped you off.

3:43 p.m. on December 19, 2011 (EST)
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Nice trip report and pictures, I like the one with the gloves on the feet.

5:56 p.m. on December 20, 2011 (EST)
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how do you like your new bag? looks pretty warm. I have the apache.

6:12 p.m. on December 20, 2011 (EST)
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Denis,

 

The bag is pretty awesome and really one my first experiences with higher quailty gear. It set me back a little more than was probably wise before Christmas season but I had to get something to keep going in these temps!

1:03 p.m. on December 25, 2011 (EST)
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Another Great trip Patman!  Looks like fun, but maybe a little cold. :)

Keep up the great work (Fun)!

Wolfman

December 20, 2014
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